GRANTS PASS - The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Clatsop County should never have approved construction of the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas project on the Columbia River.
The ruling filed Wednesday in Salem upholds a Land Use Board of Appeals decision that the project violated county planning rules limiting the size of the development and protecting traditional fishing grounds and salmon habitat.
NorthernStar Natural Gas Inc. went broke trying to build the first deepwater LNG port on the West Coast. While the company blamed its troubles on delays in securing a range of permits, it was confronted with a declining demand for imported LNG due to major domestic finds and construction of new pipelines to distribute it.
The project meant jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues for Clatsop County, but ran into opposition from the governor's office as well as conservation groups over environmental impacts from dredging the Columbia River Estuary to accommodate big ships and building a pipeline connecting to existing delivery systems.
Conservation groups said the ruling will help them combat two other LNG projects in Oregon.
"While we're happy to prevail over Bradwood, there are still LNG proposals on the Columbia and in Coos Bay," Brian Pasko, director of the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. "It's time for our state leaders to put an end to these wasteful and unwanted projects."
Clatsop county should not have classified the project as small- to medium-sized based solely on the amount of dirt that would be moved for the port facilities, the court ruled. It should have also taken into account dredging in the river.
The court also found the county was bound by its comprehensive plan to protect traditional fishing grounds and salmon habitat.
Clatsop County Planning Director Ed Wegner said they were still reviewing the ruling and not ready to decide whether to appeal.
He added that the county has not heard from project developers since they appealed the Land Use Board of Appeals ruling, and he was not aware of anyone interested in trying to build on the site.